Mastering Your Brands in Dx2

So you want to learn the secrets of using brands to their most effective ends.  I don’t blame you.  Use this knowledge well, and you might be able to take those other PvP teams in SMT: Liberation Dx2 to task. 

Dx2 is one of the most entertaining and yet strategy-minded mobile games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.  While your demons are presented to you within the five archetypes: red, teal, orange, purple and common/gray, they are not really bound to their initial statuses at all.  A 4* Zhong Kui is presented to you as a hard hitting physical single-target who is weak to force, but you could make him into a caster with no weaknesses if you’d like.  It’s not recommended to ignore min/maxing but Dx2 is about making your team how you want to.  Here’s mine below:

How to Use Your Brands To Their Highest Potential

At the heart of the pliability that is inherent in Dx2 demon-customization system is the brand system.  The in-game tutorial likens brands to pieces of armor.  One for each demon’s head, chest, legs, right and left arms.  Each brand comes with a rarity, specialization, and unique stat distribution.

  • Rarity: Brands can be anywhere between 1-star and 6-star, with that largely affecting the quantities of stats and likelihood of better stat types of occurring (for instance +phys atk as primary stat is higher likelihood on a 6-star than 1-star)
  • Specialization: Each brand can be of the following types.  Shield, guard, speed, ward, divine, spell, sick, war, and life.  Those first four have two-set bonuses while the last five have three-set bonuses.  Be sure to have a concurrent 2-set and 3-set bonus going for each of your demons.
  • Stat Distribution: Depending on the slot (chest, head, legs, etc), you can find different types of stats.  Some brand slots like the leg slot only allow HP+ as the primary stat of a brand.  The best brands have their primary stat as a percentage of what you’d like.  For example, if you’re a melee hard-hitter, you’ll be looking for phys% increase to be the first stat listed on your brands.

What Kinds of Brands Should I Equip?

Every brand set-up is situational, so I’ll use my own demons as examples.  My Teal Ose 6-star has the following set-up.

As you can see, I have huge bonuses to physical attack and health, with a minor focus on speed, ailment resistances and magic defense.  Since Ose doesn’t take physical attacks, there’s absolutely no reason to have physical defense.  Go all in on magic defense and physical attack, I say.  His set bonuses boost both of those, so it’s important to be consistent.  

Next up is Sandalphon:

+31% health coupled with +55% magic defense makes my Sandy as beefy as they come.  Since he comes naturally with resist physical, it’s unimportant to invest too much in physical defense, as you’ll see I only have 3% extra. His set bonuses give him greater magical defense and spell damage for his Hamadyne and Zandyne.

My other two are Zhong Kui and Odin.  I have Zhong set up with a purist melee set-up coupled with resist physical to make him a harder target to take down.  For Odin, I made him more of a hybrid with equal parts physical attack and magical attack.  His Gungir is nice, but not all that useful with null physical lurking around every corner, so it’s important to buff his Lightning Storm and Bufula.

Flat Bonus vs. Percentage Bonus

You’ll notice very early on that you can find brands with % increases as well as ones with flat + increases.  If you’re looking to increase your health, you’ll have to look into how much you’ll gain from a flat increase versus percentage.  

Flat bonuses with high-level enhanced brands help out low-level not-yet-fully-evolved demons more than they do max-level demons.  A level one pixie with 6* brands with all flat increases will hit like a truck in your quests.  That same pixie with percentage increases will only make her slightly better.  Remember, every time you evolve your demon and increase its level cap by five, you’re increasing it by a level of magnitude.  The higher your demon can go, the better those percentages will work for you.  Think about the long-run.  At level 50, you’ll be wanting as many high-percentage-based brands as you can find.  Don’t ignore the tertiary stats either.

If You Want to Win: Master Your Brands

The end-game of Dx2 is PvP.  You won’t get very far in PvP without brands.  Think of it as running naked onto the battlefield.  Take the time to study up on your different demons and how you could be itemizing them better.  Remember, the top-most stat on each brand will be buffed to a higher extent while enhancing than any of the lower items.  So, while farming Brands of Sin, keep an eye out of brands that have the desired stat in the pole position.  You should have Sloth 7 and Deceit 7 on auto-farm in order to get 5-star brands.  Any of the higher Brands of Sin modes will require an entirely specialized team to conquer.  Also keep an eye out on the black market for that rare 6-star goody.  As always, have a swell day. I look forward to seeing you again.

Show Don’t Tell: How Roman Empire Underwhelms

Imagine Game of Thrones and your favorite Ken Burns documentary had a baby.  That baby would definitely be Roman Empire now available for streaming on Netflix.  Not all babies are cute and cuddly, however.  Roman Empire manages to be both entertaining and befuddling at each turn.  

The question I found myself in the first fifteen minutes of this series is: “What is Roman Empire trying to be?”  Within moments it’s clear that it’s not a comedy.  All the seriousness of twelve heart attacks, check.  So then, I felt it must be an historical drama with perhaps an HBO budget.  Could be interesting *strokes beard absentmindedly*, but is that truly what it is?

Marcus Aurelius played by John Bach

Ever the ponderer that I am, recently I was perusing Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. The stately gentleman had thoughts on a wide variety of topics, from the Games to ruling an empire. Looking back, this was perhaps a fortuitous endeavor, as whilst browsing Netflix suggested documentaries, one such title caught mine eye. Roman Empire. With a slight amount of joy, I wondered aloud, “Perhaps even Marcus Aurelius is in this one!” 

How Does Roman Empire Disappoint?

Expectations, my good man.  From the introductory narration by Sean Bean himself, and the pure aesthetics of Commodus’ fight in the arena.  It seemed great.  It seemed right.  It seemed to befit the very empire upon which this show depicts.  Then the historians happened.

How do historians ruin a historical drama? By talking, that’s how.  My initial confusion as to what type of show this would be was further compounded when academic fellows started belting out hyperbole about the emperor, his son and all manner of things Roman.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Sex is an intimate thing, yeah.  A conversation between one person and their counterpart.  Imagine for a moment that you’re heavily invested in the moment, giving it your best go.  Then imagine that three white-bread academics are sitting in the corner talking about how well your thrusts are times and how your performance is the best they’ve seen in ages.

Kills the mood.  That’s exactly what these talking heads do to Roman Empire.  Narration is one thing, handled exceptionally by the master of the English language Sean Bean.  Yes, I could mention him all day.  You always be in my heart, Ned.  Think of Sean Bean as the foreplay.  He gets you all warmed up and ready to enjoy the main event.  You get started, everything is peachy, but then it’s those three guys in the corner again.  Your dangling participle droops and it’s all just a crapshoot.

But Wait There Are More Metaphors

Roman Empire is a beautiful woman.  It rolls its hips just so with its vivid cinematography, apt uses of lighting, and incredibly realistic clothing; from battle gear to peasant garb.  She flirts with you, getting your hopes up.  This will be the show that truly captures the Roman Empire.  Nah.  Not even close.

What we find in the first few episodes is a case of identity crisis.  Is this a drama featuring paid actors and actresses, or is this just one elaborate visual representation for our historians and their history books?  What, if any, creative license is being allowed here.  Tons.

How Hyperbole Ruins a Documentary

That’s the thing about ancient history.  So much of it has been lost to time, or simply went through the various propaganda machines, coming out a much different experience than what truly occurred.  While we will never know the truth, it’s clear that the showrunners wanted there to be an outline of events that must be followed.  Such as, we know that it was recorded that Marcus Aurelius led the war against the Germanic tribes for over a decade.  We also know that he spent some amount of time grooming his son, Commodus, to become emperor.  The specifics of each of those are lost to time, sadly, so there are gaps in what could be considered a narrative.

Since many of the finer details of Commodus’ reign or even Julius Caesar’s past are a matter of speculation, Roman Empire leaves all the important conversation down to semi-meaningful facial expressions.  If it is to be implied that Marcus Aurelius does not think his son is worth his soggy marbles, this is conveyed by a long, lingering, disappointing stare.  The director supposed that if Aurelius were to actually chastise his son, we as the audience would wonder what his historical reference is.  

What’s done behind closed doors in this show is almost entirely meaningful eye-rolls and imagery left to interpretation.  These body language gap-fillers are meant to present you with a beautiful world with a serviceable narrative.  In hindsight, it feels more like an amateur play with interruption for narration than a big-budget Netflix documentary.

Impure of Purpose

I really do want to point out that the fight scenes and stray nipples are welcome and appreciated.  They really did take some pages out of Spartacus’ playbook.  The thing about Spartacus was that we knew it was fiction.  It was as real as anything Shakespeare wrote.  Roman Empire passes itself off as a professor with a Ph.D.  Who also fights bears and seduces women with ease.  Hey, AMC, don’t you think that would make a good follow-up act to Breaking Bad?  No? Alright.

Well basically, the show doesn’t know what it is.  A documentary is not the sum of its chapters, but whether is conveyed something meaningful.  Roman Empire does not.

Controlling Your Depression Through Understanding

Ah, an article on depression.  There are millions of them out there with people claiming to have answers to a problem that has plagued mankind since before written history.  Ever taken the time to ogle the self-help section at Barnes & Noble?  It’s hard not to be cynical when all these ‘happy people’ are neatly packaging their depression cures for public consumption.  My ideas are not my own, in fact they are a culmination of my own research along with decades of having friends, family, and coworkers suffering from depression.  If it’ll help you put me into a stereotypical box: I am age 30, male, and was diagnosed with depression at age 21.  My father was diagnosed with a rare form of schizophrenia back in the 1970s and was told he should never leave the mental institution. He has since suffered from extreme bouts of depression for most of the years I’ve known him.

I’ve been hospitalized three times for suicide attempts and treated as an in-patient for about a week each time.  The last stint was in 2013.  Even so, my depression has not had a hold over me since early 2017, and I’m here to tell you the how and the why.  Read on, dear friends. We’ll make quick work of some pertinent topics before arriving at oodles of revelations.

Is Medication the Best Way To Combat Depression?

Listen, I’ve taken SSRIs, SNRIs, Tricyclics, Antipsychotics, and others that I’ve simply forgotten about.  Medications are not a cure-all, nor are they ineffective.  They are most often aids that can assist in keeping certain suicidal ideation or anxieties at bay (sometimes having the opposite effect as well). I do not, however, enjoy the swallow-and-wait approach that doctors take with medication.  Since no doctor on the planet can tell you precisely or even vaguely how any particular medication will affect you, it’s simply a guessing game.  “I think this medication will work for you, but we won’t know for sure until the three-week to one-month mark.”

This guessing game is one that can end up being worthwhile as tracking your symptoms and mental health while you wait for the medicine to do its job is a decent habit to pick up.  Learn yourself.

Is Psychotherapy Worthwhile in Treatment for Depression?

Yes. Sure. Therapy with the right person, that is. I have been regularly visiting the same therapist since 2014, nearly a year after my last institutional visit and suicide attempt.  I had bounced around to different people until I found M.  She was spastic and ADHD as they come, but she genuinely cared.  When I was afraid to leave my house, or drive a car, or even check my email, she did not mock.  She understood.  I’m married now and she feels like she sees victory whenever I come to visit.  It’s true; the right therapist can help you turn yourself around.  A trained professional can give you advice or simply just a different perspective on a something you’ve been going over constantly in your mind.

Oftentimes you just need to talk, or more specifically, have someone listen.

Even so, psychotherapy and medication aren’t why you came here.  You want to know about hidden secret techniques passed down from monk to monk in the Himilayas, yes?  Yeah me too.  For now, let’s go with this.

It’s All About Control

To control your body, you must first control your mind.  To control your mind, you must know your mind intimately.  This requires daily reflection in the option of journaling, praying, or any real quiet introspection of the day’s events.  For all of this, we’ll create an elaborate metaphor for the mind using something we’ve all seen or been on: a school bus.  How many wheels does your bus have?  Does it go fast?  Does the driver get distracted by squirrels?  These are important question to ask your…school bus.

Now imagine this school bus has two dozen children and one very…tired driver.  This driver is constantly yelling at the children to be quiet and finds that she has less and less motivation to keep things quiet.  Thoughts and emotions can be seen as each child.  The child as an entity is the thought, and its actions are the emotions.  Screaming, yelling, cursing, crying.  You know those types of children.  Everyone’s mind has a few passengers they wish would get off at the next stop.

Control is about taking stock of what all is in your mind.  Your thoughts, feelings, aspirations, motivations.  These are the abstract qualities that make you a person and not just a human.

Work Toward Increasing Your Sphere of Control

My good friend Ian is to credit for this phrase.  When he first told me of it, I had to ask many questions.  As I understand it, it relates to sitting down one-on-one with each of the children on your mental bus and having an in-depth conversation.  Understand your mind.  Understand why you choose to do certain things.  Understand which things make you smile.  I know some of these things may be seen as henna (strange in Japanese) but that’s what makes you an individual.

As your sphere of control increases, so does your ability to handle what happens or doesn’t happen during daily life.  Understanding breeds control.  Control breeds peace.

Controlling Your Body Can Help Take Charge of Your Depression

Notice that I call it ‘your depression.’  You have to own it, friendo.  This depression wasn’t given to you by your ex or by your parents.  You found it and gave it a home.  Now, just like a good pet-owner, you must take charge of what you own.

Look at your hands and feet.  Slowly.  Don’t attract too much attention.  That would be bad.  Our hands and feet offer so many possibilities in life.  My best friend of 23 years has limited use of his body.  Due to an incurable disease, he cannot quite brush his teeth anymore.  Or wipe his ass.  He can only walk for a few minutes at a time.  He’s only a year younger than I am, too.  And yet, through his depression and anxieties, he still manages to get the fuck out of bed and do things.  I’m very proud of him.  What’s your excuse?

As for me, with my hands, I work with tools to make tables, chairs, and bookshelves mainly.  I love woodworking.  I also work on and build computers, fix eyeglasses and play video games.  With my feet, I walk nearly ten miles a day, walked along the beach where I got married, and walked to a local grocery store earlier. Don’t get caught up in the connotation of the situation.  Doesn’t matter what what you’re doing is seen as objectively small potatoes, when it’s big potatoes for you.  I love potatoes.


Yes, yes. I realize that I have potential to do things. So what?

What I’m saying is more subtle than that.  I’m not saying that because you can do things, therefore you must.  What I am saying, is that by exerting your control over your body to choose to do things, anything, is a step toward mental stability.

Charles Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872. “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it,” he wrote.

There are hundreds of studies out there that postulate that smiling, even with a fake intention, can produce brain chemicals that craft the happiness that we so dearly desire.  That’s a nice idea, but I’ll give you something more concrete to work with.  Craft something.  Whether it be your hair or a barn-wood table.  Make something.  Take the time to do it right.  You may not be feeling anything during or right after, but ’tis a good exercise and habit to acquire.

How Many Things Do You Actually Have Control Over in Your Life?

Can you control your teachers, coworkers, bosses, friends?  Can you make them do things?  It’s possible to change the way they see you, sure.  It’s also possible to get everyone to like you.  From my own experience, that takes a toll.  Doing so changes who you are to suit others.

The only one you can truly control is you.  Know your mind, know your body, know your limitations.  Endeavor to create rather than destroy.  Try to build bridges rather than burn them.

There are so many times in daily life that we feel as though we have no control over what happens.  I’ve been blindsided by denied promotions, relationships gone awry, and family members’ deaths. Feeling helpless and hopeless are the easiest responses to these situations.  I challenge you to not take the path of least resistance, and fight instead.  Gather ye armor and do battle with the darkest thoughts of your mind.  You have taken the time to know yourself, have you not?

Know Your Enemy: Despair

Depression is essentially despair with a side order of the void.  Everyone’s depression manifests differently, but the two types that I’ve seen most often are these.

  1. Pervasive sadness and lack of hope.
  2. Loss of feeling toward anything and anyone. Loss of motivations

Both have a tendency to end up in the realm of despair.  I have been in both arenas at once, and it’s quite easy to give up.  I’ll tell you of a story, briefly.  The year was 2017.  Due to extreme stress, relationship struggles, and the death of my son, I found myself laying in a field.  It was a field near-ish to my home, yet it felt like somewhere I could just stay forever.  I did not have any motivation to live or to leave. I was done.  My girlfriend sat near me in a patch of grass, watching me with bated breath.  She knew that if she got up and went home, she’d never see me again.  So she stayed.  She was as tired and sad as I, but yet she still desired life.  I did not understand it at the time, but I had given in to despair.

I had taken the enemy’s hand and chosen to lay down and give up.  Only by my significant other’s help did I stand up and limp home.  I don’t mean it figuratively.  I limped.  I stopped many times, as well.  I’m not proud of myself, but it’s the truth.  I was done.  Done with everything.  Since then, I’ve gotten to know my enemy despair very well, so that it holds no sway over me at all.


I Have Control Over My Mind, Body, and Self. What Next?

Do some good. I know it sound silly, but it really isn’t. You can really make someone’s day, or do a great job at work.  No one will likely pat you on the back, but you will know. Back to that metaphor of the bus, won’t everyone be just thrilled if you take the time to bring snacks for the trip?  Every time you do something positive for yourself or another, it’s like giving your brain some chocolate.  Tastes good, and is quite satisfying.

At the end of the day, you’re the only one that can help yourself.  You have to get off the damn couch and seek to crawl your way out of the abyss.  You are the only one that can control you.  Why wouldn’t you want to take charge of yourself?  I believe in you.  I write these articles as a sort of conversation between myself and my readers.  I’m talking to you, and I believe in you.  Start small and keep grinding away. You’ll get it.

One Last Secret Technique For Fighting Depression

This one is mine own.  I’m sure you could find similar ideas elsewhere, but this one is my baby.  In essence, it’s a compartmentalization of our thoughts, but I’d rather see it in the form of imagery rather than concept.  If your mind was a row of mailboxes, with your thoughts being the mail itself, how would you label the mailboxes themselves?  Let’s use one that I’ve been working on recently.

You have two mailboxes:

  1. Constructive/Helpful
  2. Destructive/Unhelpful

All of your thoughts can be whittled down to these two categories.  As the mail comes in, sort through it and place them in their separate boxes.  Constructive thoughts are worthwhile.  They are positive, helpful and pragmatic.  Destructive thoughts are harmful.  They don’t help anyone.  Envy, jealousy, greed, wishing harm on others, misplaced anger.

Now imagine that second mailbox has an open back and its mail just conspicuously falls into a trash bin.  Ah, isn’t that better? So nice not that have to listen to those unhelpful thoughts.  You see them, recognize them, and then let them pass on by.  It sounds simple, and depending on you, it can be.  Try it out.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Learning to sort through your thoughts impassively, without scorn and yet with sound judgment is a learned trait.  This is not something that is taught by parents or teachers of this era, sadly.

Depression Is For Life

Those that have true depression, know that it’s a lifelong thing.  Just like eating a proper diet is a lifelong thing, so too is managing and learning to control your depression.  You are the only one who can arrive at the conclusion that life itself isn’t meaningless.  That your actions matter somehow.  Like I said before, I believe in you.  If you know yourself, learn your enemies, and learn not to ruminate on destructive ideas, you’ll be fine.  Maybe even find a glimmering slice of happiness again.  Good luck, dear friend.